Wenago is in the northwestern part of the coveted Gedeo Zone—the narrow section of highland plateau dense with savvy farmers and fiercely competitive processors whose coffee is known the world over as “Yirgacheffe”, after the Zone’s most famous district. The Gedeo region is named after the Gedeo people who are indigenous to this area. As a coffee terroir, Gedeo has for decades been considered a benchmark for beauty and complexity in arabica coffee, known for being beguilingly ornate and jasmine-like when fully washed, and seductively punchy and sweet when sundried. Great coffees from here hardly require an introduction among coffee roasters, many of whom would count Gedeo, or “Yirgacheffe”, as one of the terroirs that lured them into a lifetime of coffee admiration.
Adame Gorbota’s members may have as much as 2 hectares apiece, although the coop’s average member has less than 0.5. These are quintessential Gedeo family farms: small and forested, whose production is often divided between spacious, lofty coffee trees and enset, a fruitless cousin of the banana plant whose pulp is packed into cakes, fermented underground, and then toasted as a staple starch. This common pair of crops satisfies unique and separate needs: coffee for economic livelihood; and enset for nutrition.
Processing for Adame Gorbota members occurs at one of two different sites outside the town of Wenago. Cherry is often delivered directly by farmer members or, in the case of members living further away, to select collection sites run by the cooperative. After cherry is delivered it is sorted for uniform ripeness, depulped, and fermented for 24 hours in a tank of fresh water which is regularly replenished throughout the process. After fermentation is complete the parchment is rinsed a final time and moved to raised screen beds to dry. Throughout the drying period, often 2-3 weeks, the parchment is often covered during the midday hours, which at this altitude is often searingly hot and can crack the brittle parchment if exposed for even an hour too long. Fully dried coffee is rested for one month on cooperative property, and then transported to the Union’s storage facility and dry mill for washed coffee in Addis Ababa.
Adame Gorbota is considered by YCFCU to be one of the best-run cooperatives in the Union. The Yirgacheffe Union itself has more than 50,000 individual farmer members and 24 different cooperatives across the Gedeo Zone. (Gedeo, while tiny compared to neighboring Sidama and Guji zones, is one of Ethiopia’s most densely populated areas after Addis Ababa.) The members of each primary cooperative elect their own executive committee which makes decisions about investments like new equipment and tree maintenance, but also creates plans for member social services, school support, public health, infrastructure, and how to structure payments to the coop members. YCFCU also appoints professional managers for each primary cooperative to oversee harvest and processing procedures, who are accountable to the members and the executive committee.